No. 20 Louisville cruises by Stetson 80-48Dec 3, 2009 - 3:29 AM By WILL GRAVES AP Sports Writer
LOUISVILLE, Ky.(AP) -- Louisville guard Jerry Smith didn't waste time punishing himself following a poor performance in a loss at UNLV last Saturday.
The senior went straight from the bus to the practice floor upon the Cardinals' return and spent the next three hours putting up shot after shot - 500 in all - in an effort to find his stroke.
Smith poured in a season-high 17 points to lead the 20th-ranked Cardinals to an easy 80-48 win over Stetson on Wednesday, the kind of bounce-back performance he was looking for following two weeks of misery.
"I haven't been shooting well, it's been obvious," Smith said. "I'm going to continue to (put in the extra work) until I get into a rhythm."
Smith can keep working on his jumper, but it was his decision to get into the lane for layups that pleased coach Rick Pitino, who had chastised Smith for settling for too many 3-pointers.
"I think the best way to get your confidence going is to get some easy baskets," Pitino said. "I didn't tell him to take it to the basket, he just did it."
And he did it early. Smith was fouled trying to knife through the lane on Louisville's second possession. He did it again moments later, tossing in a layup while absorbing contact. It's the kind of aggressive play he lacked during his recent slump.
Smith came in averaging just 6.8 points on 30 percent shooting over his last four games, numbers Pitino attributed to Smith taking too many jumpers with a hand in his face.
That wasn't a problem against the Hatters (2-5). Smith went 6 of 8 from the field and made all five of his two-point field-goal attempts.
"Jerry's been here awhile, so he knows what to do and how to get out of a slump," teammate Edgar Sosa said.
The Cardinals (5-1) needed the boost while playing without injured guards Preston Knowles and Peyton Siva, both of whom were injured in the loss to the Runnin' Rebels.
The injuries forced Smith to spell Sosa at the point, and he looked capable with the ball in his hands, finishing with three assists and three turnovers.
Samardo Samuels added 15 points and seven rebounds while Sosa had 15 points and five assists for the Cardinals.
"We got a 'W,' that's about all you can say," Pitino said. "It's tough to tell how we played. It wasn't that good a game. We had seven goals defensively and we got just one of them."
That was all the Cardinals needed against the overmatched Hatters. Louisville used an 11-0 run midway through the first half to take a 37-21 lead at the break and never looked back.
A.J. Smith led Stetson with 18 points, but the Hatters shot 35 percent from the field and were simply no match for Louisville once the Cardinals got going midway through the first half.
"I think Louisville played better, but we certainly didn't roll over for them," Stetson coach Derek Waugh said.
While the Cardinals only sporadically displayed the kind of intensity Pitino expects, they were never in any danger against the Hatters.
Louisville shot 62 percent from the field, made 15 of 20 free throws and forced 18 turnovers. Ten of the 12 players who saw action scored as Pitino experimented with his lineup liberally in the second half.
Despite the blowout, Pitino wasn't exactly pleased with the effort. Louisville will practice at 6:15 a.m. on Thursday as he tries to toughen the Cardinals up during a monthlong homestand.
It's tough love Pitino said his team needs following the loss to UNLV. The Cardinals rallied from 19 points down in the second half to tie it before falling in the final minutes.
Pitino called the defeat a learning experience, one he hopes will pay off down the road, even if it didn't against the Hatters.
"No disrespect to (Stetson), but it's hard to get up for them," Sosa said. "You don't play great teams in December until you get in the Big East. Then you play big games every night."
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